The best films to see on Christmas Eve

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The best films to see on Christmas Eve
The best films to see on Christmas Eve

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Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), the two main protagonists in Tangerine, experience the kind of dynamic, exciting, and occasionally lurid day centred around a Hollywood doughnut store that would make Quentin Tarantino’s head spin. The fact that it takes place on Christmas Eve is merely icing on the cake. Many people associate Christmas with friendships that fulfil the same purpose as family, and director Sean Baker’s stylish tornado of a film is a harrowing examination of how those bonds keep individuals going through emotional turmoil, violence, and reconciliation.

The best films to see on Christmas Eve

The fruitcake of Christmas movies, White Christmas is a seasonal classic that you either love or despise. There are several reasons to celebrate this Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney VHS classic when it comes to holiday musicianship. The musical parts are breathtaking, especially the dramatic rendition of the Irving Berlin-penned title track and the lovely “Sisters.” What’s not to appreciate about that? Although the plot, dialogue, and characters are all paper-thin, the film’s 120-minute runtime is ideal for anyone who is too thrilled to sleep on Christmas Eve.

Denzel Washington isn’t known for comedies—his long career has been filled with bullet-riddled action films and hard-hitting dramas—but he’s more than capable of providing light-hearted laughter when the Lord calls. Dudley, a handsome angel called to New York to reignite a sparkless marriage between Whitney Houston’s choir singer and Courtney B. Vance’s pastor, is a delight for Washington. The premise, which is based on Cary Grant’s 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife, is a little cheesy, but the performances (along with the show-stopping gospel numbers) give this fairytale a heavenly glow.

Love Actually isn’t as sticky-sweet as its heartstring-pulling reputation might imply, despite its meme-able cue-card scene. Richard Curtis (Notting Hill) is known for his sharp wit, ridiculous verbal puns, and smart banter, which assist to balance out the film’s cloying sentimentality. So do Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, and the late Alan Rickman, who all lend a touch of class and sorrow as you try to resist the sugary attractions of this polarising rom-com.

This is the only film on this list with a claymation character revealing its genitals, so be advised. In the third instalment of this underappreciated comedy series, stoner pals Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) embark on yet another Homeric quest, this time in search of a new Christmas tree to appease Harold’s irritated father-in-law (Danny Trejo), which means more sly social commentary slipped in among hefty helpings of gross-out gags, weed jokes, and vulgar Neil Patrick Harris cameos. This holiday season, it could be the sticky-icky strain you’re looking for. (Also, a shout-out to WaffleBot, the world’s funniest Christmas robot.)

What if Santa Claus was a genuine person who was buried in a mass grave in Finland? Director Jalmari Helander poses this weird and amusing question in this whimsical horror frolic about a little kid (Onni Tommila) and his reindeer-herding father (Jorma Tommila), who explore a mystery mountain-excavation enterprise and get themselves in over their heads. The movie occasionally struggles to nail its anarchic, fairytale tone down the home stretch, but it’s more than worth a post-milk-and-cookies viewing, thanks to cheeky John Carpenter references, bursts of gun-churning violence, and a startling amount of (older) male nudity.

Scrooged received a harsh one-star review from critic Roger Ebert, who termed it “one of the most unnerving, unsettling films to come up in quite some time.” With a script co-written by original SNL bad boy Michael O’Donoghue and legitimately disturbing visuals from The Omen director Richard Donner, this is a horrible tale. Is Bill Murray the reason why some families watch this brazenly obscene holiday film year after year? Probably. But the Ghostbusters star injects enough irony and blowhard arrogance into his Scrooge-like ’80s TV executive to earn this comedy—basically the Bad Santa of its day—a devoted cult following of smart-ass uncles over the years.

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